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Does Your Association Have a Social Media Game Plan?

74% of associations indicated that increasing member engagement is a top membership goal, according to Marketing General’s Membership Marketing Report. Yet, lack of engagement with the organization was cited as among the top three reasons for members not renewing. That’s where social media can be a major game changer – when it’s done right.
If you feel like your organization is sitting on the sidelines when it comes to social media, developing and executing a game plan can score big points with your members. The following six steps can help get your association on the offensive.
1.    Understand your audience. Before you can effectively engage with members and prospects, you need to have a deep understanding of who they are. For example, business role, age, education level, income, male/female, interests, etc. Most likely, you already have a clear picture of your audience – just keep that in mind with all your social media activities.
2.    Identify goals and strategy. Based on your audience and your organization’s needs and budget, develop social media goals as a part of your overall marketing plan. What are you hoping to achieve with your social media activities? It might simply be to raise awareness for your association, or more specifically to drive traffic to your website and increase membership levels. Setting these goals up front can help you define the success of your social media campaign.
3.    Go where your audience goes. Social media enables you to engage with members and prospects wherever they are. Be sure to avoid the pitfall of trying to be present on every single social media outlet. Rather, focus on a select few sites, or even just one. If you’re targeting a business audience, you’ll most likely want to consider LinkedIn. Heavy female audience, age 30+? They’re probably on Facebook. For a younger audience, Twitter or Instagram may be the right choice. If you have lots of how-to or educational videos, you can post them to your YouTube channel. Lots of visual imagery? You’ll need to be on Pinterest. Bottom line: if your members aren’t there, then you don’t need to be either.
4.    Develop your message. Now that you’ve identified your audience and the social media platforms to use to reach them, develop your content playbook. The posts and messages you convey should have a tone that resonates with your audience and aligns with the identity of your organization. Whether it’s more technical in nature or fun and creative, the information provided and style of your posts should be appealing to your members and prospects. This is the key to getting them to engage with your content.
5.    Listen and engage. Companies only respond to about 30% of social media fans’ feedback. That means there’s a great opportunity to score one for your organization by simply responding to your followers. Make a plan to listen and respond to any posts or comments as soon as possible (at least on a daily basis). This shows your fans that they’re important to your association and enables you to create valuable conversations with them. After all, being “social” is what social media is all about. And beyond your membership, listen to what’s being said in your industry and in the news – from trends to hot-button issues.
6.    Measure. You won’t know if you’re meeting your social media goals unless you’re measuring results on an ongoing basis. Monitoring campaigns, followers and traffic to your website can help you understand what’s working and what’s not. Social media is definitely about trial and error. So give something a try – whether it’s a new platform, humor in your message, campaigns for an event or social media ads – then measure, review the results and make adjustments going forward.  
Go ahead and stretch your social media muscles. As long as you’re providing interesting, helpful and engaging content, your members will be there with you. Whether your organization’s mission is to set standards, increase awareness, provide training or further advancements in your industry, social media can be a game changer in reaching those goals.